Healthy Eating: Is It All in Your Head?
By Scott Rutherford
ith the holiday season now safely in the rearview mirror, many of us face the daunting prospect of taking a look at ourselves in that other mirror – the full-length one – and wondering how we’re going to take off those extra pounds we put on after copious amounts of turkey, mashed potatoes, and Christmas cookies.
While dieting can help us lose weight temporarily, it’s seldom the best long-term solution. We’re better off making long-term lifestyle changes, adding exercise, and, of course, adopting a healthy diet.
Good nutrition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “is really about consistently choosing healthy foods and beverages.” To do so, the CDC recommends we “add an array of colors to your plate and think of it as eating a rainbow.” We need to eat a variety of foods for optimal health. We should prioritize fruits, whole grains, and vegetables while also eating low-fat dairy, lean meats, poultry, and fish in moderation.
Most of us know which types of food are healthy and which types and preparations are less beneficial. We know that carrot sticks would be a better snack than Moon Pies, but when the moment of truth comes, the carrot sticks often go to waste while the alternatives we choose go to our waists. So, how do we do better?
Much of the battle is psychological. According to the Cleveland Clinic, people often use food as a coping mechanism for stress, anxiety, and boredom. Many of us also eat because we associate food with happiness. Healthy eating is primarily a function of being aware of what causes us to overeat or make poor food choices and putting ourselves in a position to make healthier choices. Here are a few ways you can do that:
• Create a situation in your home where healthy foods are readily available while making unhealthy choices less convenient. If it’s unhealthy, limit how much of it is in your home while keeping a fruit bowl and fresh veggies readily accessible.
• Avoid locations and situations in which you know you tend to make poor choices. For many of us, buffets are the enemy and should be avoided like the plague.
• Pre-plan healthy ways of dealing with stress, boredom, loneliness, or other feelings that lead to emotional eating. Exercise is a wonderful alternative to all of those emotions. Or, if you have to eat when you’re stressed, choose something like baby carrots, celery sticks, or fruit.
• Know when your self-control is lowest. Plan to have healthy snacks with you in those times and situations.
• Don’t skip meals. Not only should you eat all your meals, but you should plan to snack throughout the day, taking control of your urges before they take control of you.
What we’re saying is this: Before you start the season’s latest fad diet to get back to your pre-holiday waistline, consider making long-term changes instead and adopting year-round healthy eating habits.